Dearest Transform students—
We know you are largely “away” from our campus, figuring out your lives in this pandemic.
We also know you are not at all away from what should be a national racial reckoning.
I know you join us when we say: ENOUGH. It has always been horrendously, heartbreakingly enough.
This is why our colleague, Dr. William Smith, has spent his career writing and teaching about what he calls “racial battle fatigue.” His phrase has been raging in my head all these days. It so captures this terrible moment and, then, the exhaustion that inevitably awaits beyond this outpouring. The level of fatigue, joined by righteous anger, is at a new high—if that is possible. The horrific murder of George Floyd—because a camera caught it—has indisputably revealed the anti-blackness always persistent in this country. Fatigue results from being here, in maddening sorrow, over and over. And then all over again.
This at a time when Navajo Nation and other indigenous groups have suffered so dramatically during COVID, along with black, LatinX, and immigrant communities also hit so hard, and, lest we forget, at a moment when anti-Asian racism has shown itself anew. You are Transform students: you know that five centuries of white supremacy have formed this country since 1492—with five centuries of accumulated pain, death, anger, and continuously vanquished hope.
And so we say: ENOUGH.
But will it be enough? Will this be the point when, finally, large numbers of people will no longer fail to find this living, lethal, sitting-in-plain-view history unbearable? That must be the measure. And then there must be action.
I can sense the depth of collective heartbreak in Transform. As a group of connected hearts and minds, we say so fiercely: “this is the unbearable point of breaking.” We cannot keep mourning—and at times forgetting—each black person murdered by police. We cannot stand by while other folx of color and indigenous people, whose names we may not know, lose their lives to racist policies and violent actions. Slow death is taking place all around us.
And we can’t pretend that we feel this all the same. To state the obvious, anti-black racism falls so differentially on black people, black families, black colleagues, black students, and black friends. Together, we must reckon with this bald fact. Also, as the scholarship of Dr. Darius Bost has taught us, scenes of such pain threaten to reduce black lives to suffering in the limited national scope of vision, instead of opening onto a full embrace of creative black existence.
Realistically, we must commit our lives to reckoning. No swift fix is going to emerge. What are we each prepared to do?
We will be with you every step of the way inside this question. We recommit to it with ever greater urgency and tenacity. The work you’re doing couldn’t be more critical.
Together, we must face this unbearable pass to which we’ve come.
Dean, School for Cultural and Social Transformation